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Monday, March 21, 2011


Despite the fact that I no longer make the majority of my living as a writer, inside me lurks the heart of a reporter and the soul of a writer.

Maybe that's why every now and then I'm struck with a need to explore. Whether it's stopping on a whim at a historic marker or simply searhing who such and such person is, or was, to have a park or highway or building named after them.

Driving back to Dallas recently after a particularly long and not-so-fruitful day of business meetings in Waco, I glanced over and noticed a building that looks like a flying saucer followed only a half-mile away by a neighborhood of domed buildings that look more like igloos in Alaska than a house in Texas.

I drove on and at the next exit, got off the highway and turned back. Some things need exploring.

My explorations have taken me interesting places. I've loved the quirky Wall Drug in South Dakota; scoured the shelfs of a country store in Missouri then gone to the counter for a bologna sandwich wrapped in paper that tasted like a gourmet meal when eaten on the front porch sitting in a rocking chair. I've run through the jungle with U.S. Marines in Okinawa, watched baby sea turtles hatch under the light of a full moon on the beach, spent the night in a converted school house in Missouri, and sat around a campfire with civil war re-enacters in Virginia. I'm not discovering new worlds, but each exploration has a story and for a writer - a story stretches the imagination and feeds the soul.

So I drove back and took the exit to Italy, Texas off Interstate 35 between Waco and Waxahachie. I found a safe spot to pull off and took some photos of the "flying saucer," which I've since learned is a monolithic dome. Dubbed "Starship Pegasus" by its original owner in 2005 and operated as a family arcade, the dome is now a private residence. Curious, I thought and drove further down to learn about the igloo community. I stopped when I saw a sign on a few small domes that said "open." They were models open for viewing. The rental office -- a much larger dome -- sits across the street.

This was supposed to be the wave of the future -- 30 years ago. The domes are made of concrete with a polyurethane insulation sprayed on the outside. It is hailed as a "green" alternative by the company owners who say it uses less energy to heat and cool. The homes in the area varied from a large "home" of many domes constructed in a Spanish stucco style. Another was a fairly large dome and boasted a large front porch, a dome patio and dome storage unit, along with a three-vehicle carport. Most though were the studio or one-bedroom models that in reality were a little too small for me. My favorite was the grain storage grouping painted to look like a caterpillar. Domes can certainly be fun.

I got back in my car with a little more knowledge and something to think about beside the stress of a long day at work. I likely will never live in a monolithic dome, but if I ever see one in another part of the world, I'll know it's not an igloo.

I might feel an urge to explore on my next road trip across Texas. I'll let you know what I learn.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I've been spending much of my time this past month recruiting and meeting with potential volunteers to help with AARP's work in Texas.

I wish I could say that I have a really phenomenal method for recruitment, but my methods are similar to casting a net into the ocean. I send emails and mail postcards, then cross my fingers.

Occasionally, I'll hear nothing. Sometimes I'll get a hundred responses and then the process of calling and meeting begins.

As I finish yet another round of interviews, I'm overwhelmed by the quality and talented pool of people who respond. Retired doctors, parents who have raised their children, business owners, accountants, educators...the list of talent and experience is long. They want to give us their time -- for free.

This time the responses have been a little different. Almost 99.9 percent of those who raised their hand to volunteer are still in the work force. They don't want to wait until they reach retirement age to become passionate about improving their communities.

Without hesitation, the majority of people who sign up to be volunteers say they want to "make a difference." They recognize the impact and power of working on the grass roots level to raise awareness and educate others about issues being debated in the state and U.S. Capitols. And, even though many have never knocked on a lawmaker's door to discuss these issues our new volunteers embrace the challenge. They absorb the training and messaging provided and take time to learn even more on their own. They rise to the challenge.

People who volunteer give more than their time. They share their passion, their knowledge, their talents and their heart. One thing AARP -- long term and new -- have in common is the desire to make a difference and the belief that one person can make that difference. Because of that, I often find most are involved in other organizations or their church as volunteers. I'm lucky and honored when they choose to share some of their time with us.

In the past four years that I've worked with AARP, volunteers have made me laugh and cry and they've inspired me.

I'll continue to be amazed at the wonderful people this job allows me to work with and meet on a daily basis. To quote a current AARP commercial, "When I grow up..." I want to be just like our volunteers.